When the local mayor issued a safer-at-home order in early April, UltraTech International’s leaders weren't sure if they'd have to halt business and close down their office, where 30 employees work each day.
“We quickly researched exemption status and found that we met the requirements to stay open as an essential business," said Matt Shaw, EVP of UltraTech.
As a B2B manufacturer of environmental compliance products and advanced technologies, UltraTech supplies other essential businesses. However, its staff does not interact with the general public.
“Even though we're considered essential, we still asked two-thirds of our employees to work remotely so we could ensure maximum workplace safety," Shaw said.
From April on, a group limited to 10 employees continued working from the office.
The other 20 employees worked from home — a new challenge for UltraTech and most of its staff members who have never operated remotely before.
Even before the safer-at-home COVID-19 order, UltraTech prioritized implementing new safety procedures to maintain a healthy environment and create a strong safety culture for its employees.
“We had begun a new disinfecting schedule, wiping down common areas four times each day," said Shaw. “We also started using various measures to practice social distancing."
Though the local safer-at-home order wasn't lifted until early May, UltraTech didn't invite employees back until June 1.
However, employees at high risk and those with children at home continue to work from home.
“Before we made the decision to have everyone come back, we took a pulse of how our employees felt about having everyone return to the office," Shaw said. “This helped us better prepare to address any concerns, and we were glad to hear that some were very excited to return to our office atmosphere."
Shaw sends out regular updates via email to employees.
He always uses the same subject line, updating the date only and he formats the email in the same way with clear, concise, bulleted information and guidelines.
This format consistency ensures that employees can easily get the information they need and can get used to digesting it in this way.
Whenever information in the email is updated, Shaw highlights the changes to emphasize the information for workers.
After reflecting on the chaos of the past few months, Shaw recommends going one step further than his team did by establishing an employee committee that enables two-way communication.
“We contacted some employees to discuss their comfort levels prior to inviting everyone back, but it would have been helpful to have had key people representing each of their departments."
He notes that committee members could act as employee liaisons, helping employers understand how other team members are feeling, while also sharing important updates with their departments.
UltraTech began using Microsoft Teams for quick communication among colleagues.
Shaw said that this aids social distancing by cutting back on the need for face-to-face interactions.
A few weeks after returning to the office, some employees learned that they had been in contact with COVID-19 positive people.
These employees wanted to know what they should do to keep their coworkers safe.
Shaw recommends proactively planning for this scenario and sharing guidelines with employees before the issue arises to help prevent any health risks from flying under the radar.
Before you invite employees back into your offices, consider the following ideas for your COVID-19 health and safety plan:
Rearrange furniture as needed. Develop and share new social distancing guidelines, especially for common areas such as meeting rooms, kitchens and bathrooms. Post signage as a reminder where needed.
Easy access encourages employees to maintain clean and sanitized personal work areas.
Ask anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or greater to return home immediately and to work from there if they feel well enough.
Tools like Microsoft Teams or Slack allow your employees to remain within their own socially distant spaces as much as possible, rather than physically visiting one another's work areas.
Consider asking employees to continue meeting from their own workspaces using web-conferencing tools.
UltraTech checks every visitors' temperatures upon arrival and requires them to fill out a health screening form to record: